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After achieving moderate growth in 2009 despite the global financial crisis, the Turkish tourism sector is poised to see more impressive figures this year, thanks to the range of travel options it offers, especially its all-inclusive holiday packages, which have become a popular tourism trend because of the economic slowdown.
                                                                                                                   
The global crisis, along with the swine flu epidemic, which shook 2009 to the core, took a severe toll on tourism throughout the world, as traveling for pleasure is regarded as a luxury, not a necessity. However, in such a grim year, Turkey succeeded in increasing the number of tourists visiting the country. Data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism show that some 25.9 million tourists visited Turkey in the first 11 months of 2009, representing a 2.4 percent increase compared to the same period of 2008. The number of tourists traveling to Turkey rose by 10.71 percent in November 2009 over the same month of the preceding year, reaching 1.4 million. This trend is expected to continue throughout this year.

Tourism Journalists and Writers Association (TÜYED) Chairman Kerem Köfteoğlu attributed this upward trend to the high number of all-inclusive holiday packages Turkey offers, which attract families with children because of their affordable prices. Because people’s purchasing power has been declining due to the global recession, people are more cautious about spending money on travel and are shifting to cheaper alternatives. Another advantage Turkey has, according to Köfteoğlu, is that the country is not in the eurozone, which has felt the severest aftereffects of the economic downturn.

Köfteoğlu revealed the main tourism trends for this year, as selected by TÜYED’s research and development department based on the programs of international travel agencies. Budget holidays, or all-inclusive holidays, top the list, he said, adding that tour operators around the world have been urging countries such as Greece and Spain to introduce these kinds of holidays. Other than Turkey, budget holidays can easily be found in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia at the moment.

He also highlighted sports tourism, which is regarded as a “sleeping giant” by tourism sector representatives. Turkey is expected to attract hundreds of thousands sports lovers this year to watch the 2010 FIBA World Championship, which will take place in İstanbul between Aug. 28 and Sept. 12.

2010 is also the year İstanbul assumes the title of European Capital of Culture. Köfteoğlu, drawing attention to the rising importance of city tourism, said İstanbul, along with other cities that will be European Capitals of Culture this year, is expected to draw in more tourists.

Turkey will also attract tourists because of its traditional Turkish baths, Köfteoğlu remarked, adding that health and beauty experts have started to recommend Turkish baths along with spas because of their contributions to health and beauty. “Turkish baths play an important role in increasing the attractiveness of Turkey, which will be one of the most popular destinations of 2010,” he said.

Tourism sector to benefit from 3 percent growth this year

Despite the increasing number of tourists coming to Turkey, tourism revenues suffered a 5 percent drop in 2009. Ahmet Barut, the chairman of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED), seeing the performance of the sector in the face of the crisis last year as pleasing, attributed this decline not to the sector, but to financial problems in other countries. “These rates should be considered reasonable during times of crisis. The tourism sector had to decrease its prices in 2009 due to the recession and tourists acting cautiously when spending money. However, I should state that the damage the tourism sector sustained was very low when compared to other sectors.”

The Turkish tourism sector expects to see 3 percent growth this year in line with a normalization of per capita income, Barut said, adding that, however, a full recovery will not take place before 2011.